Balint Group

Balint Group

Dates: 2023 TBD

Time: 6:45 PM – 7:45 PM

Registration is currently closed.

Balint group meetings are intended for physicians only. Registrants must commit to attending all sessions. These meetings are facilitated by Rochelle Frank, MD and Michael GuntherMaher, MD.

A Balint group is a group of clinicians who meet regularly to present clinical cases to improve and to better understand the clinician-patient relationship. It focuses on enhancing the clinician’s ability to connect with and care for the patient sustainably.

A session begins with a member presenting a case for the group to discuss. During the facilitated discussion, the group members gain new insights about the patient’s and clinician’s perspectives and their experiences with each other.

A Balint group usually has two leaders who facilitate the process.  The success of a group depends on its members being honest, respectful, and supportive of divergent opinions.  The content of the group is confidential.  SSVMS Balint groups meet monthly for four months. Group participants remain consistent so that cohesion and trust develop over time.

If you are interested in learning more about Balint Groups, contact Sam Mello at [email protected].

Rochelle Frank MD

Rochelle Frank, MD, FAAN

Dr. Rochelle Frank is a Balint trained leader and has been leading Balint groups and Balint related groups (Connect the Docs) for physicians and medical students since 2012.  In 2013 she created Connect the Docs for the The Permanente Medical Group in Kaiser North Valley, which remains an active program. She is a Clinical Professor with the Department of Neurology at UC Davis School of Medicine, a member of the SSVMS Joy of Medicine Advisory Committee, and previous member of the AAN Live Well ELA committee and Kaiser North Valley Physician Wellness Committee.

Michael GuntherMaher, MD

Dr. Michael GuntherMaher studied liberal arts at Westmont College, and completed medical school and residency in internal medicine at UC Davis. He began his medical career as a general internist at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, and then completed specialty certifications in Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, where he focused most of his career. In addition to program development, department leadership and educational roles, he later served as a communications consultant to the medical group. He retired from The Permanente Medical Group in 2018. He continues to volunteer as an Associate Professor of Medicine at UC Davis and California Northstate University College of Medicine, and is currently working part time as an associate medical director at Bristol Hospice.

Excerpts from A Brief History and Introduction to Balint Group Process Laurel C. Milberg, PhD, American Balint Society

Balint training is named after Michael Balint, a Hungarian born British psychoanalyst who did considerable professional work with general practitioners around the psychological implications of general practice, that is to say, the challenges of integrating psychiatry and medicine. In the 1950’s, Balint and his wife Enid began a unique type of case discussion group for general practice physicians about cases in their practice.

Balint groups are basically a case discussion where material of the group is based on presentation of current ongoing cases that give the presenter cause for thought, distress, surprise, difficulty, puzzlement, or uncertainty, the kind that stay with you long after they leave the office. Dead or unconscious patients, or ones with whom there can be no ongoing relationship are discouraged. Unlike other medical case discussions, the purpose is to increase understanding of the patient’s problems, the doctor’s response to the patient and his/her communication NOT to find solutions, offer advice, question the presenter, out do the presenter or teach medical or psychological content. The group is encouraged to speculate freely and present divergent views.

The group is not therapy for the personal self of the doctor, though participants stand to learn about their professional selves; their reactions to patients, their blind spots, allergies and habitual response modes to patients. These are usually private realizations which are not probed in the group discussion. The experience of being in a Balint group can be very supportive, but it is not a support group, nor is it a group to discuss general issues.

How it works: The group does the work, not the leaders. A case is presented which not only reports, but manifests the patient’s state of mind and the doctor’s response to the patient. The group takes on the case as if it were theirs, becoming aware of the feelings aroused in them by the patient as well as what the patient may be experiencing. In this way the skill used to understand the doctor patient relationship in Balint groups is empathy for both doctor and patient. Often, the group, or members of the group may unconsciously enact various aspects of the doctor patient relationship, providing an opportunity to learn even more. The result can be a shift in perception or attitude about the patient and a clearer understanding of the patient’s problem, which in turn can help the doctor get unstuck in the relationship and find a more helpful role with the patient.

For more information about Balint Groups, visit the American Balint Society’s website.